New National Study Conducted by Ultimate Software Reveals Need for Greater Focus on Manager-Employee Relationships

December 4, 2017

Ultimate Software

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Data confirms that the employee-manager relationship is the #1 driver of satisfaction at work today

December 4, 2017

Ultimate Software, a leading provider of human capital management (HCM) solutions in the cloud, announced today the results of a new national study revealing the complex differences in perception and experience between managers and the people they manage. Designed collaboratively between Ultimate Software and The Center for Generational Kinetics, the survey of more than 2,000 U.S. employees revealed that managers and employees aren’t always on the same page when it comes to their relationship. Manager relationships matter a great deal when it comes to job satisfaction and retention, and as modern employees begin to redefine expectations of an effective manager, with approachability, transparency, and honesty proving paramount.

For 93% of employees, trust in their direct boss is essential to staying satisfied at work, and over half of employees surveyed say if they aren’t satisfied at work, they can’t put forth their best effort. A good manager-employee relationship can play a significant role in retention, too: more than half of employees say they’d turn down a 10% pay increase to stay with a great boss.

So what makes a good manager, and where are managers falling short? The survey findings shed some light:

  • Communication breakdown: There’s a significant gap in managers’ and employees’ perceptions: 80% of managers think they’re transparent with their direct reports, yet only 55% of employees agree their managers are transparent. And, while the bulk of employees say they feel comfortable communicating, 57% of managers wish their reports would be more open with what’s on their mind.
  • Managers—overconfident, yet under-trained: Less than half of managers report having a mentor that gives them guidance on how to be a better leader, and 45% have never received formal management training. Despite this lack of training, managers remain confident: only 16% agree they frequently make mistakes, and fewer than a third admit they don’t know what to do in personnel situations. What’s more, 71% of managers say they know how to motivate their team, but only 44% of employees agree that their manager knows how to motivate them.
  • The end of “the manager” as we know it: The overwhelming majority—a shocking 80%—of employees surveyed think they could do their job without managers and deem them unnecessary. The survey found that 75% of employees say that approachability is the most important quality in an effective manager today, but only 5 out of 10 employees say they have an approachable manager. The role and expectations for managers are changing and managers aren’t receiving the training, coaching, and data they need to know what to change or how to improve.


“We’re witnessing a fundamental shift in how employees view their managers. Manager relationships aren’t just about someone telling you how to do your job, it’s a relationship that has a major impact on employee retention and happiness,” said Adam Rogers, chief technology officer at Ultimate. “It’s a wake-up call for companies of all sizes to get serious about better training, coaching, and guidance for managers, so these relationships remain strong. Leaders should look at the ways they can leverage human resources and technology to get ahead of communication and trust breakdowns, and work closely with employees to redefine what it means to be a manager in the 21st century.”

“These results really highlight that longstanding belief: people don’t leave companies, they leave managers,” said Jason Dorsey, president and co-founder of The Center for Generational Kinetics. “It’s a serious concern that affects everyone in the workforce and it’s something all companies should focus on fixing before they end up losing great leaders and valuable talent. The good news is organizations of all sizes can start taking steps today to close this growing divide and ultimately improve the manager-employee relationship.”

Adam Rogers and Jason Dorsey will be hosting a live webcast on Tuesday, January 23, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time to speak in detail about the study’s results and actions leaders can take now. To join the live webcast or to learn more, visit


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